Inside the Sochi Games: Your television guide to Olympics viewing
The Noise Report
(SI.com examines some of the more notable sports media stories of the past week.)
1. Last week Fox's producers offered an extended explanation of why they cut short the interview with Richard Sherman. My SI.com story on that is here. I also followed up with Fox's Richie Zyontz, the producer of the NFC Championship game, a couple of days later to see if he remained confident that he made the correct decision. "I haven't felt as good about anything since the Mets won the World Series in 1986," Zyontz said.
1a. Westwood One and TNT broadcaster Kevin Harlan was highly critical of how Andrews conducted the Sherman interview.
1b. Fox Sports producers Mark Potter and Jeremy Berg got some little kids to re-enact the Andrews-Sherman interview. It is pretty funny.
1c. The AP's Rachel Cohen on how NFL networks are making audio a key part of their broadcasts.
1d. Last week Fox Sports paneled a group of Seahawks fans together and offered them $5,000 if they could stay quiet for the entire NFC Championship. The network taped the experiment and it was pretty great.
2. What are the Super Bowl's biggest storylines? Is Media Day a good idea? Who will be the most quotable Bronco? I held an email roundtable with a group of reporters who have covered nearly 70 Super Bowls between them: Mike Klis (Denver Post), Shalise Manza Young (Boston Globe) Jeff McLane (Philadelphia Inquirer), Armando Salguero (Miami Herald), and Ed Werder (ESPN).
3. Each pro football-airing network will have a small army in New York and New Jersey for Super Bowl-related programming this week. For those interested, here's the complete list of events and commentators:
3a. Westwood One will have live radio coverage of the Super Bowl, with Harlan doing the play-by-play for the fourth straight year and Boomer Esiason serving as the color analyst for his 14th consecutive year. The sideline reporters are Mark Malone and James Lofton. Jim Gray will anchor the pregame and halftime coverage, with appearances by Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and Rod Woodson
4. One of the most challenging sports media jobs during Super Bowl Week are the sports-talk radio producers who have to wrangle guests to fill hours of airtime. I recently held an email roundtable with three producers of national radio shows (Kyle Brandt, executive producer of The Jim Rome Show on CBS Sports Radio; Todd Fritz, executive producer of The Dan Patrick Show and Liam Chapman, a producer for ESPN Radio's Mike and Mike) to offer insight into how crazy Super Bowl week is for a national radio show. (For all you Luddites: Paul Pabst, Fritz's colleague, said Fritz keeps all of his contact numbers either on a notebook or in his head; He does not trust computers).
What is your booking philosophy for Super Bowl Week?
Brandt: Come one, come all. The most fun part of Radio Row is the grab bag factor. Cam Newton will sit down across from Jim right as Vanilla Ice is leaving, and then the second he's done, Joe Montana shows up. It's bedlam. This year it's like, "Can we squeeze Jesse Pinkman [Aaron Paul] in between Ronnie Lott and Randall Cobb?" Hell, yes, we can. The other thing that's huge is letting guests pitch their products. Because everybody is pitching something. We don't do much of that during the rest of the year, but for Super Bowl Week if a guest will hang out and talk football for 10 minutes, we'll talk about their soda or soup for one minute. One year in consecutive segments we got ice cream sandwiches from Tim Brown, avocados from Shannon Sharpe, and smoothies from Bill Romanowski. It's part of the fun. There are so many goods and products showing up, by the end of three hours, our stage looks like a Doomsday Bunker.
Chapman: To get the biggest names in football on the show not in terms of quantity but in terms of quality. Over the years we have made the decision to go with less guests and set the bar very high as to who we want to join us Super Bowl Week. This year we've changed up our thinking slightly; you will still see the biggest names in football on the show but we're also going for more entertainers to give this year a different feel than the same football guests that will appear on every other show throughout the week.
Fritz: I'm trying to determine who will be in town -- and prioritizing who we're most interested in having on set with us.
How difficult or easy is the process to land people?
Brandt: It's easy to land guests, but it's tricky to land good guests. My favorite bookings are the ones we do on the fly. We'll be in commercial and Jim will say, "Hey I think I just saw Ricky Watters walk by. We go way back. See if he wants to come on." Then five minutes later we're talking '90s Eagles and Super Bowl XXIX. It's the only time of year you can be that spontaneous with booking.
Chapman: Over the years I've managed to build good relationships with networks/agents/clients etc ... so once you have made the initial contact, it's funny how you really do work with the same people year in and year out when booking guests. Obviously we have a big platform and guests want to come on the show so a lot of the time guests are pitched to me, which doesn't hurt.
Fritz: It's challenging because no matter how far in advance you try to secure appropriate guests, they or their representation/handlers often don't know if they will be in town or what their exact schedules look like until days before Super Bowl Week. You also have to factor in things like where you're broadcasting from in relation to where most of the prospective guests might be, traffic on the roads, and schedules that can change by the minute.
Roughly how many guests will you book during Super Bowl week?
Brandt: During a normal week we do about 15. Super Bowl Week we'll do two or three dozen. Most shows don't do the entire week on Radio Row, so Monday and Tuesday it's pretty barren. Then around Wednesday, the floodgates open. It turns into "Knucklehead Alley" and we book 12 guests for 12 segments. I've had to turn away a Hall of Famer because his time window was already committed.
Chapman: Right now we have 26 guests locked in. As I mentioned, in years past, we would go wall-to-wall guests on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, which would have us at around 40 to 50 guests. But we're aiming for less guests and more Mike and Mike this time.
Fritz: We really look for quality, not quantity, when it comes to guests. Ideally, it would work well to have at least one on-site guest each hour but we'll modify that as the week progresses based on news of the day and who we learn is available on short notice that we'd enjoy having join us.
Who would be your dream get during Super Bowl Week and why?
Brandt: There are not a ton of people Jim hasn't done over the years, but he and I were just talking the other day about how we'd love to get Arnold Schwarzenegger into The Jungle. I think he's the only person to have the athlete/major movie star/politician trifecta. And his voice is perfect for the air. When I saw Arnie in his Super Bowl commercial, I was hoping he'd make it to Radio Row. He could probably fill an entire hour just with stories from the set of Predator.
Chapman: The dream get this week is obviously Peyton Manning. That's a tough one that we're working on it but if it doesn't work, we've got Archie and Eli coming. Really, the dream gets are the ones who never do any interviews or the big newsmaker when there is a breaking news story. Any time you get that "A" guest it's a good feeling for everyone on the show.
Fritz: Michael Jordan? President Obama? Adriana Lima? Jennifer Love Hewitt?
5. Asked whether they had any impact on Lolo Jones being named to the U.S. Boblsed Team for Sochi, NBC Olympics executives fired off some multisyllabic words.
6. Michelle Beadle will officially leave NBC Sports in March. Her next stop appears to be ESPN.
7. Sports stories of note this week:
• Grantland's Rembert Browne on Richard Sherman and the thug athlete narrative.
• The New York Times' Sarah Lyall on Celebrity row at New York Knicks games.
• National Post columnist Bruce Arthur, on rooting for an Iron Fist from Russia.
• Deadspin examined the use of the word thug on television. Not surprisingly, ESPN2's unctuous First Take ranked high among sports shows.
• Via The Nation: How Serious Is The Terror Threat At The Sochi Olympics.
• New York Times' Steven Lee Meyers on Putin's Olympic fever.
• Jeff Pearlman interviews sports writer Chuck Culpepper.
• ESPN.com's Ian O'Connor on Vince Lombardi's high school coaching legacy.
Non-sports pieces of note:
• Grantland had an oral history of the film Swingers.
• Eagle Scout. Idealist. Drug Trafficker? Fascinating piece by the New York Times on a drug hub known as Silk Road.
• Via The Washingtonian: Daniel Pearl's Last Story.
• Last Man Fighting: Another brilliant obit from The Economist.
• New York Times political reporter Amy Chozick had a well-reported profile of Hillary Clinton.
8. An example of how hard it is for a fledgling sports network to knock off ESPN: The most-viewed college basketball game that' aired since the start of the current season is ESPN's Michigan State-Kentucky broadcast on Nov. 12, 2013 -- the game drew 4,002,020 viewers. Fox Sports 1's most-viewed college basketball game for this season came on Dec. 1 with Kentucky-Providence, a game that drew 360,413 viewers. Furthermore, ESPN's least-viewed game this season (George Washington-Marquette) beat FS1's most-viewed game by 49,781 viewers.
9. NFL Network national reporter Albert Breer was not listed on any of the network's press information regarding its Super Bowl coverage, a curious absence given the Super Bowl is the biggest event on the NFL calendar. Said an NFL Network spokesperson: ""Albert is on a temporary leave of absence from NFL Media." When contacted by SI.com on Friday, Breer said that it was a personal matter and he hoped to be working back soon.
10. Love this GIF (from Chris Fogler) of Rafael Nadal pumping himself up.
10a. Premier League fans: NBC Sports Network will air a "Transfer Deadline Day Special" on Friday at 6:30 p.m. Steve Bower will make his NBCSN Premier League debut as host as Rebecca Lowe heads to Sochi for Olympic coverage.
10b. Chelsea's victory over Manchester United last Sunday, averaged 1.019 million viewers on NBCSN, just missing the Premier League U.S. cable record (1.033 million for the "Manchester Derby" on ESPN on April 30, 2012).
10c. Here's the NFL season in 160 seconds, produced by ESPN's NFL social media team and voiced by Trey Wingo.
10d. CBS Sports will broadcast 22 golf tournaments this year, including the Masters, PGA Championship, 20 PGA Tour events and eight golf specials.
10e. Nice work by ESPN's Tom Rinaldi and Co. on the Roger Federer-Rafa Nadal rivalry.